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Westminster community steps up for student after Lahaina fire

Hailey Killett, a sophomore elementary education major, was getting ready to return to campus for volleyball pre-season when she received news a fire spread in her hometown island and burned her house down. 

The blazes that tore through Lahaina, Maui from Aug. 8 to Aug. 9 have left at least 97 people dead and 31 still missing, according to an article published by the AP on Sept. 18.

“I wasn’t doing okay a little bit ago, but I have volleyball, I have school now to focus on,” Killett said. “So it’s like, I’m doing a lot better than [before] but that’s because I have a lot of distractions.”

Killett said the school has helped her, financially and emotionally, and been by her side through this time. 

Sue Dulaney, head coach of the women’s volleyball team, was the first person to reach out and offer a shoulder to cry on, according to Killett. 

“[Dulaney] literally cried with me on the phone,” Killett said. “She told me they wanted me on campus as soon as possible [for pre-season] but that I could take all the time I needed.” 

Associate Athletics Director Shelley Jarrard was another community member who showed support, according to Killett. 

Killett said Jarrard reached out to the Women’s Board of Westminster, and they covered the cost of replacing a hearing aid Killett lost while evacuating Hawaii. The Women’s Board is also helping pay her meal plan, according to Killett. 

“We just want to be a safe space, we want to be supportive and we hope we can keep her in a space where she can thrive,” Jarrard said. “I am really proud of how our university responded.”

In collaboration with the volleyball’s staff, Killett said she is planning a fundraiser on Nov. 10 at one of the home games to gather donations and partner with brands who would support those in Lahaina affected by the fire. The plan is to send the donations to a non-profit organization to help Hawaiian victims, according to Killett. 

Killett said the support displayed by the Westminster community has shown students’ well-being is a top priority at the institution. 

“Westminster, they kind of just were like, ‘No, you don’t deserve to go [through] what you’ve been going through. Let us help you,’” Killett said. “And I’m still like… I don’t know. It’s incredible. I cried a little bit, but it was just awesome of them.”

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Gabriel Oliveira is a senior at Westminster University majoring in communication who moved from Brazil, and loves playing basketball in front of his home crowd. He is excited to finish his college education and start the next chapter.

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